Managers Struggle with Data (p.2)

Sept. 28, 2010
AEMP Hosts Technology Summit

The Association of Equipment Management Professionals met with several major equipment manufacturers earlier this month in its first Technology Summit in Chicago. Caterpillar, John Deere, Komatsu, Volvo and Manitowoc were invited to participate in order to begin a dialogue on how to integrate the various communications technologies. Future meetings will bring in software providers.

AEMP has identified the following obstacles to be addressed:

  • OEMs have invested considerable resources in their respective technologies. To ask OEMs to redesign their existing hardware and software is not a viable option.
  • Currently, fragmented information from diverse sources provided by separate web-based servers or stand-alone software provide little or no provision to import data into end-users' fleet management software or enterprise system software.
  • Asset managers have different needs for integration, and OEMs likely have varying opinions on what can be shared if compatibility issues were to be resolved. In order to look at the scope of the problem, an in-depth discussion of the data streams involved in modern fleet management is important.
  • There is no standardized file format currently being used by the OEMs.
  • There is no electronic data interchange (EDI) format standard. Widespread adoption of a standard file format would certainly help solve this problem.
  • Asset managers use a variety of fleet management or enterprise software programs that are not often compatible with OEM software or difficult to integrate.

Multiple systems could include a homogenous system that the contractor has built to provide equipment management or billing capacity, a third party application for a maintenance system, or a system to measure productivity.

Manufacturers, who have invested substantial funds in developing technology that make fleet managers more proficient at asset management, have come up with various products that managers of mixed fleets can use. For example, Caterpillar's Product Link hardware can be retrofitted to either a Cat machine or installed on machines of other manufacturers. The hardware package includes an antenna, electronic radio, and connecting wiring that gathers and wirelessly transmits data. The software that is used with Product Link is available by subscription through Caterpillar dealers.

John Deere late last year expanded capabilities of its JDLink Machine Monitoring System by adding three new optional levels: Advanced, which gives all data from the JDLink standard level, plus percentage breakdown of idling hours vs. working hours and dashboard alerts, such as low fuel level warnings; Ultimate that captures machine pressure, temperature and speed that can be downloaded onto a spreadsheet for later analysis; and Direct level, which lets fleet managers download data directly from the machine rather than from the Internet.

"The trouble with that is that such products may or may not be able to capture all the data," McFadyen says. "They can probably capture hours and location because that processing can be done on the telematics unit itself. They may not be able to read bus codes off a different make and model."

It's unrealistic for the off-road industry to create a universal bus format that would allow contractors to read data directly off the bus of any data system, he says. For telematics to come up with a common interface to the bus, he explained, would require substantial re-engineering of the products and the entire process could take years, literally, to get it done. "We all have to take baby steps to get where we want to go.

McFadyen suggests that manufacturers might extract information from their own brands via telematics, then make it available through their applications programming interface, or API.

"API can be used to hook into that website/web service to get the data out," he says, "but the data may not be in the same format as it was when it came off the bus. The contractor can still consume the data he needs from that Cat equipment, and telematics provides the data; as opposed to the tethered solution, where you extrapolate the data off the bus."